Fun fact: you’ll see more actual Beach Boys on stage during a Brian Wilson concert than you will by the group that tours as The Beach Boys. The latter, of course, is led by lead singer Mike Love and features keyboardist Bruce Johnston who was originally hired in 1965 to take Brian’s place on the road. Brian Wilson’s current touring outfit features co-founding Beach Boy Al Jardine, as well as Al’s son Matt, and Blondie Chapman who was in the band in an official capacity for a few years in the early ‘70s.
The backing band is under the direction of life-long Beach Boy fan Darian Sahanaja, who took lead vocals on “Darlin’” and “I Can Hear Music,” which used to be sung by the late Carl Wilson. Sahanaja sounded spot-on like Brother Carl. He’s also responsible for the bands awesome sound; having helped Brian put together the lost Smile sessions and being the musical consultant on the Wilson biopic Love & Mercy.
Most of the vocal duties, though, were taken by Matt Jardine, particularly the high parts that Brian can no longer hit at his advanced age. Al took lead on a few songs as well including “Help Me Rhonda” and “Wake the World,” while Brian managed only to sing lead on a few tracks with varying degrees of energy.
Chapman sat out the first few numbers, turning up about a dozen songs in to sing “Long Promised Road,” followed by “Sail on Sailor.” Speaking of the latter, here is fun fact No. 2: Blondie Chapman is the only non-original Beach Boys member to sing on one of the band’s singles. He punctuated that vocal performance with a long and powerful guitar solo.
The crowd, though enthusiastic, remained seated, oddly, for most of the show. During “Sloop John B,” a gentlemen two rows in front of us tried to get the crowd to stand-up. The two hipsters next to me, a lady behind us, and my daughter and I obliged. But to no avail.
It wasn’t until the last verse of “Good Vibrations,” 24 songs in, that the audience finally saw fit to get out of their seats, because how could you not? That tune rolled into “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
For the final number, the band gathered around Brian’s piano, save for Sahnaja who accompanied on his keyboard, to sing the only Brian Wilson solo song of the evening, 1988’s epic “Love and Mercy.” Brian handled the entire vocal, with the band harmonizing beside him.
The Zombies opened the evening with a four-song suite featuring two of their hits (“Tell Her No,” “She’s Not There”) bookending two newer tracks. They then brought on what keyboardist Rod Argent termed “the expanded band,” which included Darian Sahanaja from Brian Wilson’s band. The crowd was then treated to The Zombies stunning 1968 album Odessey and Oracle, perhaps the most slept-on album in rock history. To the lay fan, it’s the album with “Time of the Season,” a surprise hit in the U.S., as it peaked at #3 in 1969, a year after the band had split up. While that’s still a great tune, the album is even better and The Zombies smashed it, delivering a fantastic performance.
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.